DERA ISMAIL KHAN:
The curfew which was imposed shortly after the Dera Ismail Khan prison break was imposed again on Wednesday, evoking the public’s ire.
On Monday night, a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) assault on DI Khan Central Jail resulted in the escape of 248 prisoners, including 49 high-profile militants.
The fact that intelligence agencies had given a heads-up to just about everyone – from the provincial home secretary to the prime minister to DG ISI – makes the security lapse all the more grating for locals. The details of the collective failure of the law enforcement apparatus is an “open tale” – the success of the TTP brazenly taking their colleagues ‘home’ in vehicles festooned with banners sporting ‘Long Live Taliban’. Residents want to know why they are imprisoned by the curfew when the prisoners roam free.
Shahbaz Khan, a labourer stranded in Kati Khel Hotel in Topan Wala Chowk, told The Express Tribune, “I work for daily wages and hardly earn more than Rs300 per day; to save money I sleep on sidewalks at night.”
Now he has to bear hotel expenses in order to abide by the curfew. “It’s like a scene from an Indian movie – unreal.” For Khan, what happened in his city is beyond comprehension.
“What Sulemani topi (invisibility hat) were these militants wearing which helped them come and go with such ease? This is a complete failure on part of the district government which just sat on its hands,” argued the provincial president of the Shia Ulema Council Allama Ramazan Tauqeer.
In fact, the 150 heavily-armed TTP militants were completely visible on their 15 cars and 10 motorbikes, traversing the city of DI Khan.
“If the attack could not be prevented, then helicopters should have been able to follow the escaping prisoners, many of whom were on foot,” maintained a local. “The authorities could have targeted them through aerial firing and assault.”
The distressed resident went on to point out “the very same aircrafts were buzzing overhead now, but what are they searching for? It’s all over the news that militants have reached the safe havens in tribal areas.”
“Please stop this irrelevant search operation and end the curfew, the arrests and checking,” he asked the government.
The curfew imposed by the district government will be relaxed between 10am-12pm and again between 4pm-5pm. Deputy Commissioner DI Khan Irfan Mehsud told journalists the curfew was in place on Tuesday because of Youm-e-Ali.
As with any state of crisis or emergency, commodity prices go up as retailers expect demand to increase and supply to fall short because of non-availability as is the case in a curfew. Residents had already seen a price hike before Ramazan. To add to their woes, many people are stranded in and around DI Khan and Bannu. Roads leading to the city such as Peshawar Road and Multan Road remain closed. Routes to South Wazirstan from Tank are also inaccessible.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2013.